As data traffic volumes increase on mobile operators’ networks so they face the pressing need to be able to monitor the impact of that traffic on their networks and customers. To do that, they need to effectively monitor the behavior of their networks around the clock. Such capabilities are particularly important in highly competitive markets such as India, where a bad experience can send a valuable mobile broadband customer running to a rival service provider.
Keeping these objectives in mind, Bharti Airtel Ltd. has effectively transformed a traditional Network Operations Center (NOC) by adding a Customer Experience Center (CEC). The result? A majestic 3,600 square-feet video dashboard that displays the status of the operator’s network, using multiple metrics, in real time. (See .) Airtel’s wall-of-pride is housed in its Universal Network Operations Center (UNOC, as Airtel likes to call it) in Manesar, Gurgaon.
The facility consists of three buildings, which house the company’s DTH TV services NOC, its transport network NOC, the new NEC (Network Experience Center), and around 900 employees. The jewel in the crown is, of course, the NEC, which helps the company monitor the performance of its mobile, fixed-line and DSL broadband, DTH, mobile commerce and enterprise networks, along with its international cable systems and internet-peering-points, from a single location.
The philosophy behind NEC There was a strong business imperative to build this facility. Increasing data consumption highlighted the need to be more in tune with the need of the customer and a traditional NOC was unable to meet this requirement.
“We understand the health of the network at the NOC. However, after the advent of data in the Indian market, life has changed,” Jagbir Singh, Director – Network Services Group, at Bharti Airtel tells Light Reading India. “We can offer more services and applications [to customers] only if we understand the customer’s needs in a much better way. It is not like a voice call. Monitoring the network does not tell me about the customer experience,” adds Singh.
In addition, Airtel works with multiple vendors, and it felt the need to bring everything on one platform. “The vision was that we should be able to see everything about Airtel’s network in one room at any given moment of time. That was the trigger point,” Singh further elaborates.
However, it took a long time, approximately three years, to turn this vision into reality. The biggest challenge was to construct the screen size without any beam or pillar in between. Finally, an 8-meter beam was constructed to support the screen. The screen is 40 meters in length and 8.4 meters in width. There are about 25 video-screens which capture data from Bharti’s various businesses. The 3,600-square-feet video-wall is powered by a dashboard system from Nokia Siemens Networks. It monitors and analyzes the operators network operations and presents them in a unified video view. The video wall was supplied by Barco.
As visitors enter the NEC, they are greeted by a story wall (not the same as video wall) with 10 screens that capture the evolution of the company. These screens show Airtel’s major events, such as the launch of 3G services, as well as its corporate values, vision, and so on, in a journey of the company. This correspondent was chaperoned to the second floor of the center to get a bird’s eye-view of the screen. The lift to that floor opens into a huge boardroom, all done up in cream and brown. A command on the iPad opens the view to the gigantic screen. This boardroom is for the company’s top management but, on a regular day, 25 agents would be sitting on the ground floor monitoring data.
What can the wall do? Data on the wall is derived from the CEM (Customer Experience Management) solution the company implemented about a year back. Initially, the solution was deployed in the metro circles (service areas) but was later rolled out across India.
“Any data from CEM revolves around six feeds: Devices; network; service; customer usage; customer dimension; and location. So we can use different permutations and combinations to get the information we want,” explains Singh. “Based on these attributes, there are multiple use-cases that we can execute, like network-related use-cases, marketing use-cases or customer-related use-cases. We slice and dice the same information based on their attributes,” adds Singh.
This data is then churned and shared with the respective departments. Consequently, this helps the company not only plan the network’s growth but also offer plans as per the customer’s need. “What NEC has [essentially] done is that it has brought together the CEM and traditional NOC. It has merged both so you get an end-to-end view by correlating many things like devices, services, etc. So you give this data to marketing, business groups, and they can come out with better plans. It is like an end-to-end value-chain for the data customer where you are taking care of the customer right from devices to the network,” says Singh. The CEM team is around nine or ten people, who not only take care of the data reporting process but who also monitor the setup.
Gagandeep Kaur, Editor, Light Reading India